I am an alcoholic.
My name is Janice.
At age eight, I can remember climbing up on to the kitchen counter to reach a bottle of cough syrup. All I was aware of then was that it made me feel "funny."
My first real encounter with drinking started at the age of twelve. I would play waitress or "barmaid" at my dad's home poker games. I'd help make the drinks; of course I would taste test them to make sure that they were just right. I couldn't resist finishing off what was left in a glass before making refills. The hook for me was not just the drink, but the "reward." I'd get tips for doing "such a good job" and lots of attention. I felt good and got paid to drink. Who could ask for more! All this gave me the feeling of being a "grown up," of being important, and I started on my drinking career.
My dad was in the Air Force and we moved around quite a bit. Making friends was easy, but I always felt out of place and "not quite good enough." There was always this knot inside me. My drinking took another leap at the end of my sophomore year in high school. Just to feel "something" or get through the morning, I'd have a shot or two of booze. My dad, being an alcoholic himself (and the son of an alcoholic), always had a ready supply in the kitchen hutch. Those shots helped make a part of my day go by little easier and got rid of that knotted feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just wanted to feel more secure about myself and the booze helped some. I guess I was just like any other high school kid, trying to find a place to fit in or a place to hide. The booze seemed to do the trick for me. It helped me to feel more comfortable in a crowd of hundreds.
I also had very painful "female problems" and Dad would give me ginger brandy to help with the pain. I actually looked forward to those painful times. It's interesting now, as I am writing my story, to see that even then I was drinking to take away pain, not only physical pain but the pain of insecurity, sadness and fear of rejection from peers. During high school, I somehow was able to get to house parties with friends. There were times I ended up in places and couldn't remember how I got there never mind how I got home. (I realize, now that I am sober, that I was having blackouts.) Then, the state where I lived lowered the drinking age to 18! Now I didn't have to sneak drinks anymore and I didn't. I continued to drink in this fashion through high school.
As I made my way through college; I tried to control my addiction by cutting back during the work week, but there were always the weekends. I really enjoyed college and the field of work that I chose. (I continue in that line of work today). To stay knowledgeable and keep up to date with my profession, I would take extra classes in the evenings and attended occupational seminars. At these conferences, I find it interesting (especially now in sobriety) that in such a large and varied crowd, I could pick out the drinkers to spend most of my time with (or did they find me?) so those nights were never dull or "dry."
On this one particular drunken evening (that in sobriety, I know I will never forget); I had hooked up with an older and more "experienced" crowd. Most of that evening was spent in a blackout and I can remember only a few terrifying, awful moments.
I remember dinner, dancing and the drinks. I remember walking along the docks and then being on the dance floor of someone's yacht and that we were out to sea! Next memory - I came to and realized that I was not in my own hotel room! I started, thinking, "Oh my God, what the hell did I get myself into?"
I have no clue about what happened the rest of that weekend. I couldn't remember anything. I still don't know how I got back to my hotel room, how I ended up at one of my classes or how I even got back home. The seminar had been in New Jersey and I didn't live in New Jersey! God must have been watching over me. That was well over 25 years ago. This one example of drunkenness and disgusting behavior (to be sure, there's more to the story) gives you an idea of a bit of my alcoholic past.
During the early years of my marriage and while having my family, I didn't drink often or hard, and thought I had my drinking under control. Wrong! Slowly, as the years passed, my preoccupation and dependence on booze grew and grew. At first, I just wanted more. Then, I needed more. I needed more to feel better, more to drown out the bad feelings, and even more to be happy. More, more, more.... My demons were still there though; insecurity, low self worth, always feeling sad and scared; always feeling small, displaced and invisible; those demons were always right there with me.
As time went by, my alcoholism thrived. I went from three or four days per week of drinking to just about the whole week. When my husband would comment on my drinking, I became angry and I drank even more. I was often drinking before work (this has embarrassed me more than anything else I ever did when I drank), and of course, drinking after work was a given. The booze was always on my mind. I'd wake up in the morning and start planning my drinks for that evening. I was consumed. I was always sick and tired of feeling emotionally awful, so I would drink to get numb and make the pain go away.
My father was an alcoholic, his father was an alcoholic and there's strong evidence my mother too, suffered from this disease. My family tree is riddled with this disease and I'm confident that I have a predisposition for alcoholism. I live with depression and my alcoholism every day. I used to drink because I wanted to feel good. Then, I drank to anesthetize because I didn't want to feel anything.
But the booze wasn't working anymore and I progressed to the point that I had an emotional breakdown. It was during my hospitalization that I heard about Alcoholics Anonymous. On my own I took the well known "Twenty Questions" test (a self test to help you decide whether or not you might be an alcoholic) and after answering "yes" to many of the questions, I spoke with my doctor who told me to give A.A. a try. So I did. And that's when it happened!
I was lost (literally and figuratively) on the night I went to find my first meeting. I was angry and ready to give up, but "something" changed my mind. I finally found the church where the meeting was being held, but I was late when I walked into that church basement. I was scared, crying and felt absolutely awful; but I knew instantly that I had come to the right place. It felt like home to me, the kind of home that we all dream about but rarely find. A place where we are welcomed, accepted, and understood.
I had found Alcoholics Anonymous.
In the fellowship of A.A., I have blossomed. I have a wonderful support group. I have a better relationship with my Higher Power and I try to follow the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to the best of my ability. I have found that living One Day at a Time without a drink is possible. I have a new life now, but most important, I am able to help others who still suffer from this dreaded disease.
There is a saying in A.A. that goes like this:
"Don't Leave Before the Miracle Happens."
Miracles do happen!
I have not had a drink in five years.
I am a Miracle.
I am an alcoholic. My name is Janice.
I am an alcoholic.
My name is Rick.
I never envisioned as a child that the answer to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" would be "a drunk" or an "alcoholic." I had no idea that there was a merry-go-round waiting with my name on it, and a big sign that said:
"Warning: if you climb on this alcoholic merry-go-round, you may never get off!"
My early years as a product of two "Baby Boomers" were that of the American ideal at the time. We lived in a three-bedroom home in New England, my parents had two cars, two children (my sister and me) and we lived a middle class life with all of its charms, advantages, and attractions. My sister and I were brought up to strive for good grades, take music lessons, play sports, and work hard to "get into a good college," and these are things I did with little thought and resistance. Through it all however, there was an emptiness and fear that was with me every waking moment. As a child, It was something I did not understand, but affected my every thought, word, and action.
While I did have friends in my neighborhood, every time I found myself in a new social situation, whether it be a new kid in class, or a co-worker at the town drugstore where I worked, I became filled with a fear that "tied my tongue" leaving me with little self worth because I could not even carry on a conversation with these potentially new people in my life. Over time, the feeling of being "less than everyone else" was ingrained in my personality, and the feelings of being different and not quite belonging remained a big part of my emotional life. At the time (the 1960s) treatment for depression, anxiety, and other emotional issues was really not available, and certainly not acknowledged, especially as parents of that era would never acknowledge that their child was not "perfect." By the time I was a senior in high school and ready to head for college, my life had become dull and predictable, and I had no verve or zest for life. I was resigned that I would always be the "smart, quiet (nerdy), and shy" (to some "weird") boy/man that I had become.
Then, Everything Changed.
It was St. Patrick's Day during my senior year in high school. I was visiting a neighborhood friend and he offered me a can of beer. I had a total of three beers, put on some stereo headphones, listened to Grand Funk Railroad, and for the first time in my life, the fear and anxiety that were my life were gone! Eureka, I had discovered the magic potion that would make me "one of the guys." I WAS COOL! The feeling that I experienced was incredible! The knot of anxiety that I always had in my stomach was gone, and I felt that I could finally "fit in."
"Partying" (as we called it back then) began in earnest when I went off to college. As I was a product of the 60s and the 70s, there were a lot of new "freedoms" that were becoming available to me, such as long hair, jeans and work boots, and with the advent of new drinking laws, the ability to drink in bars and purchase liquor once I turned 18. Now that I was "cool", I was immediately accepted into my peer groups, both in college and back in my hometown. Partying became the norm, and later, an obsession. I spent the next four years in college, and my grades were nowhere near my capabilities as I was more interested in beer, women, music, concerts, and partying. As there were also a lot of drugs available, drinking was not my only choice, although most of my drug use was with marijuana. I did not get drunk very often, but when I did, it was always to the extreme. However, this was a rarity as I was content to drink "a little" and smoke dope as well.
After graduation, I lived in my hometown for a couple of years, and the partying continued. I was soon promoted by the company I was working for and began my corporate career, first in upstate New York, and then in southeastern Michigan. I married and had two children, bought two homes, drove nice cars, and continued to be promoted, but my drinking was getting worse. My wife begged me to go to Alcoholics Anonymous, but in my arrogant state of denial, I said to her:
"If I ever had to go to an A.A. meeting and admit I was an alcoholic, it would be the greatest defeat of my life."
At this point, my arrogance knew no bounds, and believing I could do anything I wanted to, both at home and at work, the mess that was my life became even worse as I was forced to resign from the best job anyone could ever have with the best company in the world.
The marriage soon ended in divorce, and I found myself sitting on the floor in an empty rental house with only my dog for company. The shock of losing my job and my family led me into a pit of depression from which the only escape was booze. I began drinking even heavier, and was soon up to a quart of vodka a day. I was working for a small landscaping company and the shame I felt going to work each morning after losing my former job was unbearable. The only release from the shame was a trip at lunch to the liquor store. Soon, the people I worked with began to suspect I was drinking on the job, and I left the company.
I had received a fair amount of money when I sold my house (after the divorce) and for the next year and a half, I did not work. My day became one of waking up feeling awful, hating myself, filled with shame and disgust, and immediately going to the liquor store to take away the pain. This became a daily torture. Having a drinking problem and being a drunk was something I never thought would happen and the realization was in my mind every waking moment of every day. I even drank over my drinking.
I had known for several years that I was an alcoholic, but I did not know how to quit. I tried all of the so-called "cures" (only drinking beer, only drinking after 5 PM, drinking only on weekends, geographical cures, etc., etc., etc.,) but nothing helped, because the pain that I was feeling was overwhelming, and it was better to drink for one more day and make some of the pain go away. Every day, I drank at least a quart of vodka, sometimes more, and my life was one of pain, shame, self-loathing, and fear. I knew my life was over and my fate was to be nothing more than a drunk, alone, and with no one else in the world knowing what it was like to be me.
After about a year and a half, my parents came and "rescued me." I moved back home and lived with them for almost two years. In that time, I did not drink but I was a mess. I was (what I have since learned is called) a "dry drunk." A dry drunk is an alcoholic who is not drinking but is still exhibiting all of the characteristics of a drunk, including fear, shame, and self disgust. I managed to stay sober during this time, but after a couple of years of so-called sobriety, I decided that I "wasn't that bad" and would be able to handle drinking now. I started to drink again and it wasn't 3 months before I was back in the same old hell.
One night, when I had decided (for the umpteenth time) to try and quit drinking (I had managed to stop for about 24 hours) I began experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms. I started to shake, felt terrible, began vomiting, and really thought I was about to lose my mind. My roommate was literally reaching for the phone to call 911 when, for the first time ever,
I said out loud, "God, please help me."
I can't explain exactly what happened to me, but in a minute or two, feelings of calm and peace came over me. I was still sick as a dog, throwing up, shaking, and feeling worse than I ever had, but I had control of myself again. Even while bent over the toilet bowl, I knew I was going to be OK!
The next day, I went to my first A.A. meeting.
When I walked into my first meeting, I was filled with fear. I could not imagine how A.A. could help me stop drinking, something I had been trying to do for years. I sat down in the back of the room without looking at anyone and waited for the meeting to start. I was surrounded by smiling faces and envied their happiness.
The meeting chairman got up and said some things about A.A. that I really did not understand, and then introduced the first speaker. A woman went up to the front of the room and started to speak. She talked about her alcoholism, her feelings about herself, and how hard it was to stop drinking. I was so surprised at what she said that I thought someone had put her up to this to fool me into thinking A.A. could work. Then I got another shock as the second speaker got up and did the same thing. All at once, I realized that I was with people who felt like I did, thought like I did, acted like I did, and had the same problem with alcohol I did.
I sat and cried through the rest of the meeting because for the first time in many years, I had hope that there was an answer for my alcoholism. After the meeting, I walked home. As I was walking, the same thought kept repeating itself in my head over and over. That thought was "If those A.A. people can do it, I can do it!"
The only difference between the countless days I tried to stop drinking and the day I did stop was this: I asked God for help and I went to an A.A. meeting.
I still go to A.A. meetings. I still ask God for help.
I have not had a drink in 19 years.
Thank you God, and thank God for A.A.
I am an alcoholic. My name is Rick.